Rutherford playing as Morgan’s first female varsity football player

Published 10:41 pm Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Morgan Academy’s Lauren Rutherford practices kicking field goals as assistant football coach Allen ‘Rob’ Robinson holds. Rutherford is the school’s first female to play on the varsity football team. -- Robert Hudson

While the Morgan Academy Senators and Meadowview Christian School Trojans are renewing their gridiron rivalry on Thursday, Morgan’s Lauren Rutherford will continue to cement her place in school history.

Thursday will mark Rutherford’s third game as field goal kicker for the Senators’ varsity team, as she’s the first female in the school’s history to hold that designation.

For Rutherford, a junior, it’s something that’s been in the works for a while, as former head football coach Brian King noticed her as a member of the school’s first ever soccer team.

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“Last year, when coach King was here, he was thinking about it because two years ago was our first year for soccer and there’s a picture in the breezeway of me kicking our first goal that we got. And they saw my form, I guess, and thought it was good,” Rutherford said. “Coach King thought about it, but the rules stated that no girl could play high school football.”

While last year’s Senators team had a kicker in place, the issue of who would kick for Morgan came up again later, and Senators head football coach Bob Taylor and assistant coach Allen “Rob” Robinson had Rutherford in mind.

“This year … coach Taylor came in and this year they didn’t have a kicker,” Rutherford said. “Coach Rob came out there one day at soccer practice and said ‘hey, try this.’ And he had me kick and it went through.”

Rutherford said after three straight kicks through the upright, her day was complete, but the opportunity would arise again.

“Then, when spring came around, they called me out there to do it again and I did it. I think I did pretty well and they said ‘alright, good, we’ll have you in shoulder pads two weeks from now.’ And I was like, really, is this happening?” Rutherford laughed. “I was like, okay, sounds good to me. I went home and told momma and she was like, ‘oh my goodness, I’m going to have to hurt somebody if they hit you.’ And dad was excited because I’m like the son he never had.”

Getting the rule changed was the next step, and Taylor said Rutherford has fit in with the Senators ever since, having kicked in the team’s jamboree game and season-opening road win at Pike Liberal Arts School.

“We had a rule here at the school that girls could play up until the sixth grade. And we kind of took it to the board and the board made the approval that we need to allow them to kick and it was mainly for safety reasons,” Taylor said. “Last week was her first time to get on the bus and go with everybody as a team and she’s fitting in very well. They kind of protect her a little bit, kind of watch over her. I think the more she does it, the better she’s going to get.”

Along with football and soccer, Rutherford is also a member of Morgan’s varsity volleyball team.

She’s been pretty busy with both seasons running alongside each other, as she’s alternated between football and volleyball practices, and she’ll even have to face the Trojans on the volleyball court Thursday before playing them on the gridiron.

But Rutherford is up for the challenge.

“It’s been very hectic, I guess, but the coaches are really good, they’re working with it together,” Rutherford said. “When they first talked about me going out there to do it, my volleyball coach [Jennifer Moore] said she’d let me do it. She talked to coach Taylor and they’ve been really flexible with me about it. I try to do as much as I can when I can, but then again, I also have to keep my grades up, so that’s going to be hard, but I think I can do it. I like challenges.”

When she takes the field, Rutherford knows she serves as a role model for younger girls, and for that, she said she’s truly blessed.

“I think I’m real blessed to be able to do it because not many people get this opportunity and it gives a lot of the younger girls someone I guess to kind of look up to for it, and I want to be that person that they look up to,” Rutherford said. “And I believe that, if you have talents like this, go as far as you can with them because you never know where it’s going to take you.”